LU SolidariTee Team
EXCLUSIVE: Who Are SolidariTee?

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SolidariTee is a somewhat unusual concept for a charity. It started with one Cambridge undergraduate, Tiara Sahar Ataii, and has now grown into one of the largest student-led charities.

After volunteering in a refugee camp in Chios, Sahar Ataii bore witness to an asylum system buckling under pressure. When returning home, she decided to find a way to fund refugees throughout the asylum process.

Focussing on the provision of legal aid, which she called “the most dignified aid you can give,” Sahar Ataii decided to design and print 600 t-shirts using her maintenance loan. She then sold them to help fund legal aid NGOs and provide more funding for the collapsing asylum system in Greece. Sahar Ataii called this charity SolidariTee.

Every t-shirt sold by SolidariTee is ethically manufactured and has been 100% organic since 2020 to avoid contributing to the climate crisis. Every step has been tailored to reduce the carbon footprint and waste production.

This year, SolidariTee has raised £142,000 to preserve and strengthen the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

SolidariTee Central Team:

SolidariTee is structured around a central team with all the regional teams operating simultaneously. SCAN spoke to Alexa Netty (former Executive Director of SolidariTee) about their time working in the central team.

Netty first got involved with SolidariTee after inviting Sahar Ataii to a TEDx conference during her years at Cambridge. After speaking with Sahar Ataii after the event, Netty felt she had the skills to help SolidariTee flourish.

“Because of my own experience, I really believe that with education, it’s possible for everyone to intellectualise why it’s important for all of us to stand up for the rights of forcibly displaced people, no matter your level of prior knowledge.”

ALEXA NETTY, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SOLIDARITEE

Netty became the sixth person to join SolidariTee’s central team in 2019, by which time the charity was operating in thirty-seven universities. In 2020, she progressed to Executive Director, taking on more responsibilities within the charity.

As Executive Director, Netty dedicated her whole heart to SolidariTee along with all her spare time. Despite her degree, she put in countless early mornings and late nights to keep the charity running smoothly. She said that her teammates always made everything so much fun and that “SolidariTee has always been a source of joy” despite the hard work put in behind the scenes.

SolidariTee at Lancaster University: 

While the central team of SolidariTee provides the structure, guidance, and administration for the organisation, the regional teams remain at the heart of the fundraising.  

Although SolidariTee Lancaster is a fairly new branch, they have already achieved so much, organising some incredible events including a charity ball, pot luck dinner in collaboration with LU Amnesty, and SolidariTee talks for other societies on campus.

SCAN spoke with Sabrina Baybutt (Head Representative) and Csongor Szij (Regional Representative) who have both been volunteering for the Lancaster branch this year.

Baybutt’s role revolves around communication with the central team and supporting events, especially t-shirt sales and fundraising events. Whereas, Szij takes the lead in organising events, sorting all the final details, and making sure everything runs smoothly.

Both Baybutt and Szij believe there is a lot of misconception and prejudice towards both asylum seekers and refugees. While SolidariTee doesn’t venture into political discourse, there is no denying that it is a partisan and political issue.

Szij spoke about the most common misconception: “All of them want to leech off the welfare system here.” He felt that this phrase provides a blanket allegation impacting all asylum seekers, despite the real issues lying elsewhere.  

Baybutt had a similar view on “refugees willingly leave their home countries to find a nicer place to live.” She felt that “the vast majority of refugees do not want their home countries, they are forced to flee as a result of war, violence, persecution – things like that.”

“They don’t have a choice. Refugees leave behind their homes, career, family and friends to undertake an incredibly dangerous journey for the chance of safety.”

SABRINA BAYBUTT, LU SOLIDARITEE HEAD REPRESENTATIVE

Both hope that their work with SolidariTee will help to strengthen refugee and asylum seekers’ rights.

Final Thoughts:

The forced displacement of thousands of people across the world is a concept that is, thankfully, foreign to most of us here in Lancaster. But that doesn’t mean nothing can be done to help those who have been failed by the asylum process.

The mission behind SolidariTee is a unique one. Donations don’t go towards short-term aid, although that is undoubtedly important. Instead, they fund legal aid organisations to give autonomy and dignity back to refugees and asylum seekers.

SolidariTee keeps administrative and operations costs below 1% so that over £8.00 from every £12 t-shirt goes directly towards funding NGOs working to provide legal aid and other vital services.

If you are interested in learning more about SolidariTee, please follow the link here

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